Thursday, March 22, 2012

Football's Great Tragedy

This blog will no doubt prove controversial and at the outset we would like to stress that we wish Fabrice Muamba nothing but a full recovery, what happened to him was terrible and we wish him all the best.

That should suffice should it not? Well not if you are a professional sporstman or sports scribe. Since Muamba collapsed on the pitch on Saturday the level of hyperbole and sheer nonsense emminating from players and press has been ludicrous.

There has been talk of Bolton not participating in the FA Cup again this season, of being too traumitised to return to White Hart Lane. There was even the question (not perpetuated by the club we would add) of whether they would complete their Premiership fixtures such was the tragedy that had afflicted the club and the trauma to their players - what tosh. Real cynics would even possibly dare to suggest that Owen Coyle is attempting to deflect from the poor results from this team this season, perish the thought.

Bolton's game last night (a full five days since the events in question) was postponed on grounds of the trauma suffered by the players. This alone is a perfect example of the pampered and wholly artificial world that is the life of the professional footballer. Are they really so much more sensitive and delicate than the masses? Everyone else gets back to work, why shouldn't they?

There have been many instances over the years of commuters as an example dealing with fellow passengers who have been taken seriously ill. Could anyone imagine calling their boss the following day and saying they cannot come to work because they are too traumitised to return to a train carriage?
In the UK, compassionate leave is negotiable with your employer and is designated as the time required to make the necessary funeral arrangements for an immediate family member. In Singapore, compassionate leave is merely encouraged and suggested to be around 2-3 days at the most. Professional footballers it seems cannot play a game (not exactly an employ that most people would find a hardship) a full five days later because a colleague (not even a remote family member) has been taken badly ill even but is already awake and talking again.

Again, we must stress that we wish Muamba nothing but the best. But why is his predicament so much worse than that which befalls a fan or any other member of society? Are Bolton arguing that ambulance services for their fans also stricken ill should be improved?

Of course not as they are those fans are not millionaires with access to the very best medical equipment and therefore it is irrelevant. Should a citizen fall ill at home they would have to wait like everyone else, no difribulators within five minutes.

Only in the past few days, the father of a Kilmarnock player collapsed at the side of the pitch and a teenager collapsed playing in an amateur rugby game, has anyone even noticed this, never mind speak about it?
Personalising the issue temporarily (with due apology), only last year a dear colleague of this blog's writer was taken suddenly and terminally ill. In the six days that nature requried to take its' course, working life carried on and was interspersed with twice daily trips to the hospital culminating in being there at the final passing. This we would stress was for a close friend, known to the writer for years.

It is not only football of course that suffers from this type of issue. We were told how incredibly brave Darren Clarke (great guy that he is we would add) was for hitting golf balls whilst cheered on by thousands in the Ryder Cup only months after his wife had passed away.

It was also said that Tiger Woods was incredibly brave playing again cheered on by thousands only months after his father had died. What price the refuse collecter whos' wife dies on Saturday and is back at work on Monday?

There are of course times where serious injury or even death go hand in hand with the sport. F1 is a great example where the drivers take safety incredibly seriously yet they retain an entirely pragmatic approach to accidents. After the last deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, the racing went on and safety improved. Michael Schumacher's brother Ralf endured a horrific crash in Indianapolis, his elder brother drove on.

Boxing is a sport that has always courted contoversy yet the fighters understand the dangers and again strive for safety yet accept that tragedy can occur. Even the likes of Chris Eubank, forever tormented by the Michael Watson tragedy carried on although he was never quite the same again.

Obviously these are different examples as we are talking about injuries sustained by participation in the sport rather than an illness but one could argue that cardiac arrest could be a result of extreme physical exertion on a football pitch. Serious injuries do occur in football, just ask Peter Schmeichel with regard to David Busst in 1996.

No one is arguing that medical practises should not be improved for footballers but they are already far in advance of what the vast majority have access to as well as the automatic private health care that follows. Practises should be improved for all, not just the priviliged few and the footballing community would be well served to remember that and not alienate those who pay their inflated wages even further.

Muamba's plight is a sad one but given that only a handful of people outside of Bolton held the man with any regard - some (but not all) in White Hart Lane would have happily seen him break his leg prior on Saturday - it is really necessary for it to be front page news for a week in the press?

A footballer being taken ill does not turn them overnight into a cross between Nelson Mandela and Pele and it seems to be with Muamba. The BBC radio interviewer last night actually asked Harry Redknapp if Saturday's events were the reason for Spurs not beating Stoke? What nonsense, Redknapp at least dismissed that possibility out of hand.

Many sportsmen and in particular professional footballers are pampered to the extreme and exist in a bubble where they believe that they are superior to the man in the street. This now appears to be transcending to footballers believing their lives and even emotions are now more valuable than others.

For the likes of The Sun, it sells newspapers and for many footballers it offers the opportunity to show themselves as sensitive modern men, the reality however is Muamba will soon be forgotten and the normal service of Bentleys, nightclubs and sleeping with their brother's wives will soon be resumed. Genuine grief is played out in private, not via rent a quotes to the national tabloids. - No Nonsense.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where Now for Glasgow Rangers?

The media clamour that followed Rangers' plunge into administration has now diminished somewhat with even the Daily Record only dedicating around a dozen or so of the front pages to the topic now. Like most scandals, reality TV stars or just general bad news it becomes boring very quickly for the masses. Rangers are just another bankrupt football club - c'est la vie.

The difference with Rangers as has oft been stated is the knock on effect for the wider game in Scotland and the implications of the possibility of liquidating the club. Whilst that eventuality has been delayed - but still very much exists - by the voluntary wage cuts amongst the playing staff there is little doubt that Rangers as a whole remain in great peril.

On the surface, there seems little downside for Rangers going into administration. They will not be able to enter European competition in any event next season as they cannot submit their accounts. Even after a ten point deduction and a horrible run of results, they remain in 2nd place on goal difference. The difference in sums of prize money in the SPL render their final position irrelevant other than in the event of relegation given that they cannot compete in Europe next season.

As usual it seems with any troubled club with a large support and long history, there are a long list of suitors with the term 'knight' having to be used in the loosest possible terms. It is a shame as the people with the genuine best interests of the club at heart become lost amongst the bile of the many trying to generate publicity through association with the club's name despite having neither the means nor the will to seriously bid for the club.

The reality is that with an unresolved tax case and with Craig Whyte's deal with Ticketus under dispute, no businessman with any level of aptitude would go near such a deal. Any offers available to Rangers as an alternative to liquidation are unlikely to provide the means or finances to offer the remedies that the club requires.

And so to Craig Whyte. Whilst not the man that set Rangers on so reckless a course, clearly someone that in no way acted to assist the club despite having executed 'due dilligence' on their highly precarious financial position. Whyte lied to all at the outset about his own personal money paying off Lloyds.

What he in fact did was to mortgage Rangers' future season ticket revenues to pay off debt to Lloyds Bank and for the princely sum of one pound installed himself the chairman and most importantly as the main creditor with rights over both Ibrox and Murray Park.

Following that line of logic, anyone with a quid in their back pocket could have put no money into Rangers, put the club into administration and then sat with their fingers crossed hoping to get some loot when the creditors are paid out. Anyone still defending this man should be embarrassed.

The fact that the players asked for clauses in their newly reduced contracts giving them the right to walk away should Craig Whyte reappear is damning. The man is a fraud and a charlatan as his complete disappearance from the scene of the crime would back up this up. Walter Smith's recent comments about the panic that engulfed Whyte after Rangers' defeat to Malmo also bear testimony to this.

The other chief villain amongst this veritable rogues' gallery is Sir David Murray. It's hard to know what to make of the man now and it is particularly painful given the revere with which he was once held. His years of excess have been well documented but his biggest crime it would appear was his selling of the club to Whyte.

It is possible that Murray has simply been lucky in his life time of financial dealings and he simply has no business acumen whatsoever. His running of Rangers and his being 'duped' by Whyte - someone that many people could see was a fraud - conjure images of a toddler with a phone and a keyboard with two buttons, 'buy' and 'sell'.

Given Murray's other business successes however, another conclusion can be made. That of an unscrupulous businessman with a strong desire to be liked and to be popular.

The word 'egomaniac' might not be one normally associated with an outwardly reserved and well spoken man, there are however tell tale signs. There was his eager association and friendship with Graeme Souness at the outset. Then a huge level of personal involvement in the financially catastrophic and ultimately poor  footballing decision to keep Brian Laudrup until his contract ran down.

There was his desire to bring high profile but troubled names such as Paul Gascgoine to the club (rather than make a move for the equally priced Gary McAllister) which belay a man seeking the public eye. Colin Hendry - well into his thirties - sat alongside Murray in a tartan suit on signing day, no one it seemed had asked Dick Advocaat however whether he wanted him.

It is hard to see that Murray could not see in Whyte what others so readily could and it may well be that Murray knowing the end was nigh needed a stooge to take the fall in which case it was an arrangement that benefited both. Murray would have his fall guy and would be able to walk away.

Whyte, a Monaco resident caring little of what the blue half of Glasgow thought of him bought himself for a pound, an option to have himself listed as Rangers' main creditor using their own funds to install himself as chairman - he is certainly not stupid.

Whyte's position is clearly untenable and the administrators (who seem equally culpable given their non disclosure to the FSA) can also clearly see him for what he is with their vociferous rebukes towards his claims on the club, all of which will see Whyte worse off by a pound at the most - no doubt that pound was borrowed from someone else in any event.

All of this will take time to play out and even if new buyers are found it is unlikely that the club will be in anything resembling a stable financial position for years to come, especially if the Ticketus deal is found to be enforceable meaning that Rangers have effectively no income for the next three seasons.

Liquidation would see Rangers have to be reformed, something that Fiorentina went through several seasons ago. Given the current level of competition with Scotland, Rangers would promote themselves back through the divisions in the shortest possible time, assuming Ibrox remained intact then plus or minus Murray Park they would be roughly back where they started in a few seasons time.

Rangers do seem to have unearthed small pockets of youth talent via Murray Park but the current playing staff is hardly of the highest calibre and so rebuilding the squad to an SPL level would not be a particularly onerous task such is the sad reality of Scottish football nowadays.

The chances of Rangers in some format or other simply ceasing to exist appear to have diminished for the time being at least. No matter what the national delight at their predicament, that is a good thing for Scottish football.

Should Rangers drop down through the divisions as the result of liquidation then the SPL would suffer in the interim as the removal of the television revenues from Rangers' fixtures and the loss of the Old Firm games would be a severe blow to television and sponsorship revenues.

Should Rangers remain in the division with a vastly reduced quality of squad then the status quo would remain to a fair degree.

The biggest question ironically would be for Celtic. Do they wish to retain a squad that will win the league by thirty or forty points yet is not good enough for Europe or do they wish to trim back their own squad to one that would win the league by ten points and is still not good enough for Europe?

During the nineties, Rangers spent vast sums and achieved a succession of league titles mainly at a canter, embarrassing flops in Europe and a huge debt. Celtic could now face this reality unless they are prudent as revenues are so much lower and they will have to cut their cloth accordingly.

No one is suggesting that Celtic is not being run properly but the financial reality of a now one horse race must be realised.

The future for Rangers is for once less than orange and should the full force of the tax evasion case be brought to bear then liquidation will not be an option but a necessity. The likes of the SPL and the newly regretful Campbell Ogilvie are trying to absolve themselves from all blame and it is entirely pathetic to watch.

The ease with which a man with no assets - certainly none that he was willing to pledge - such as Craig Whyte was able to buy Rangers makes a mockery of all those associated with the process. The SFA is bringing charges against Whyte and Rangers now (as they should) but who is taking the SFA to task for approving his ownership in the first place?

This sorry mess is entirely of the doing of those who have been in charge of Rangers both now and then but as always with these things it is the fans that suffer. Rangers is on its' death bed but the reality for all who follow Scottish Football is that they must hope for a recovery, they can rest assured it will be a slow and painful one in any event - No Nonsense.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Too Big To Fail?

To borrow a phrase coined with regard to international banks during the financial crisis of 2008, it was never more relevant than it is right now with regard to several high profile football clubs of which Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers are the most at risk.

Nearly every football club likes to refer to itself as a 'big/massive club' and any of those 'big/massive clubs' that are ever relegated instantly become 'sleeping giants'. Football loves a cliche and here it is no different. But these days what is the definition of a 'big club'? In this day and age, it is measured by revenues plain and simple.

There are many different ways in which a club can be bankrupted by those charged with their custody. There are some owners and chairmen such as Peter Risdale at Leeds and Sir David Murray at Rangers who should simply know better. Then there are others such as the assorted Eastern Europeans who have owned Hearts and Porstmouth who are either laundering money, servicing some sadistic tendencies or trying to turn a fast buck.

Then there are those such as Carston Yeung at Birmingham who simply don't have the money they say they do and there are the Gillettes and Hicks who simply loaded Liverpool - one of Europe's most famous clubs - with hugely leveraged debt, driving them to the brink briefly (with the full backing of the Premiership) in the hope of making a profit.

Whichever of the various follies have been the root cause for a particular club, the simple facts are that much in the same way as the US housing market cascaded into the subprime vacuum, you simply cannot keep on borrowing money indefinitely and living vastly beyond your means for an extended period of time.

Glasgow Rangers are by most measures a 'big club', a huge one even with a vast support and long history dating back to 1873 no less. But in revenue terms they ceased being a big club (in European terms) in the early nineties with the birth of the Premiership, the Champions League and the television revolution that came with those sweeping changes.

Despite no access to these revenues - due partly to repeated Champions League failures -  Rangers continued to spend like the top European clubs, the results speak for themselves. Failure on the pitch (in European terms) and a catastrophe off the pitch. Rangers are a big fish but in an incredibly small pond.

Paradoxically, Portsmouth are by almost no measure a 'big club'. They are a club from a seaside town with no great footballing history. Yet their access to the television riches of the Premiership allowed a succession of chairmen and managers to spend huge amounts on some fabulous players. One FA Cup was achieved via the backdoor and with all the culprits now having left the scene of the crime, the Pompey faithful are faced with the loss of their club with even the Premiership parachute payments going to the former owner.

Port Vale are now in administration and there are many many rumours circulating about Birmingham City. Fiorentina and Leeds United have imploded previously and even the mighty Barcelona needed a huge Euro loan previously to pay their players whilst Real Madrid engineered a 400M 'sale' of their training ground to tide them over several years back.

The UEFA Financial Fair Play rules are at the very least flawed but Platini at least is trying to address the problem of the long term viability of football. One only needs to look at German football for instance - interesting how football is mirroring the wider financial picture - where grounds are modern and full and most clubs run an operating profit.

The irony is that the larger the revenues, the larger the defecits clubs appear to run widening the gap between the top and the bottom. Smaller clubs such as Leeds, Fiorentina and on a smaller scale Dundee and Motherwell as an example duly bankrupted themselves trying to keep up with the top, it is a horrendous ever decreasing circle.

Bankers' bonuses are in sharp focus due to the taxpayers bailouts across the globe but what those same taxpayers are missing is that they are also funding the players' wages that are so bankrupting football as a whole. The only difference is they are paying via the turnstile or Sky subscriptions rather than through income tax.

Davie Moyes' cry for everyone to take a 20% haircut was a radical socialist cry worthy of his Glasgow heritage but the truth is it would be probably for the long term good of the game - No Nonsense.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lionel Messi - The Greatest Ever?

Lionel Messi is poised to break nearly all scoring records if he carries on scoring at anything close to the rate he currently is. Quite clearly he is one of the most astonishing talents that the world has ever seen, the question is, is he the best ever?

The case for
Quite simply, his scoring rate is without parallel. He may break the Barcelona all time scoring record before his twenty-fifth birthday, when you consider the players they have had over the years that is an incredible statistic.

Messi is also a fantastic team player, his goals do not come at the expense of others and nor is he simply a penalty box poacher like so many of the strikers with huge tallies such as Romario, Ian Rush or even Pippo Inzaghi. Messi creates havoc all over the pitch with his skill, speed, dribbling and vision and he creates many many chances also for his teammates. He is a true 'No10' with a scoring rate to surpass that of even the greatest 'No9'.

Many players have been able to excel in their domestic leagues but have failed to replicate that form in Europe - Eric Cantona springs to mind - but Messi's record in the Champions League is again tremendous and his trophy haul of domestic and European honours even at his still relatively young age is fantastic.

People will say that Messi hasn't done anything in a World Cup yet but there is an arguement now that the World Cup isn't the pinnacle it once was and that the Champions League is the top level of football now, if that is the case then Messi is truly at the peak.

Messi is without doubt one of the finest players to have ever played the game and should he stay injury free he should go on to break almost every record that has ever been set.

The case against
There isn't really 'a case against Messi' as such and it is almost impossible to compare players from different eras. There are however several points that need to be factored in when comparing Messi to the previous greats.

The conventional wisdom is that the two greatest players that ever lived were Pele and Maradona. There are then a list below those two usually consisting of the likes of Cruyff, Di Stefano, Beckenbauer, Puskas and possibly George Best (not really considered from anyone outside of the British Isles). Since then, probably only Zinedine Zidane and (the real) Ronaldo before his injuries have come close despite the excellence of players such as Platini, Baresi, Maldini, Van Basten, Gullit, Baggio, Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo.

To be able to compare Messi to Pele or Maradona, we would have to establish that he is a better player therefore than say Zidane or Cruyff, Zidane being an easier comparison due to the time proximity of their careers.

Zidane won everything there is to win and played with an elegance (except for the headbutts) that was hard to match. Nearly every single one of his assorted teammates for France, Juve or Real said that he was on a completely different level.

Zidane cannot compare in terms of goals with Messi and this was probably the area that held Zidane back from further compare with the greats. Zidane didn't have Messi's speed either but he was still an incredible dribbler with close control as good as anyone's.

Where Zidane bettered Messi however was the ability to dictate the pace of a game much in the way that Xavi does for Barcelona, he was a supreme conductor of the orchestra. On balance however Messi's brilliance seems to be the greater.

The writer of this blog has always held Maradona as the greatest player to ever play the game and in terms of stature and skill the two players are very similar. Maradona's goal scoring feats bear no comparison leave him trailing in Messi's wake. Again like Zidane however, Maradona typically played a little deeper and was able to run a game and dictate the pace almost at will.

Maradona never played in a team as good as the current Barcelona side. Indeed Maradona was regularly a unique inspiration to both his National team and to highly unfashionable Napoli side, this made his achievements all the more incredible. Maradona won the 1986 World Cup as singlehandedly as is possible in a true team sport.

Messi when in a less than spectacular Argentina side has struggled to make any real impact and was a peripheral figure at the World Cup. The Barcelona team is incredible with him in but it would still probably be the best team in the world without him, such is the brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro and co.

Football today is very very different from when Maradona played the game with tackling now almost outlawed. Maradona was regularly kicked off the pitch during his career, with the protection offered from referees to attack minded players nowadays one suspects that Maradona would have run riot also.

The fact that there is another player in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo scoring goals at almost the same rate as Messi also highlights that the Spanish league has very little strength in depth. The trend of the big clubs buying up all the best players and keeping them in huge squads has led to little strength in depth in European football especially outside of the top leagues.

So is he the greatest?
There will be many people that think he unquestionably is and in many ways it very hard to argue with the statistics. Messi does have a huge advantage in that every single fantastic thing he ever does is recorded from every conceivable angle and replayed hundreds of timeswhereas in previous eras much was only described by word of mouth.

Depending on how you look at it that can also work against Messi in romanticising the past feats of others however. The writer of this blog has lost count of the amount of times he's been told 'you must see this goal, he went around the half their team' only to find the player played a one-two and beat one more player who had already fallen over before fooling the keeper with a scuffed shot.

For this blog however, Maradona remains the yardstick even if only for the 1986 World Cup which remains a complete one off. We do however expect Messi to keep providing a compelling arguement to challenge that view and with the 2014 World Cup sure to be expecting Messi at his peak, the stage will be set for him to take the crown once and for all - No Nonsense.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Top of the Premiership Takes Shape

Liverpool versus Arsenal and Spurs versus ManYoo were the two trump fixtures of the weekend. Both resulted in away wins and no one should really be surprised.

Liverpool are a poor team and were only a penalty kick away of being embarrassed by Cardiff City at Wembley. That they could not see off a Championship side after 120 minutes of football speaks volumes. Dalglish's clever rhetoric has let slip a little of late, especially with his atrocious defence of Luis Suarez but whilst he has the owners temporarily fooled after the 'glory' of Wembley, the reality is they are still a very average side with no hope of Champions League football never mind challenging for the title.

Arsenal remain a good but spineless football team with a centre forward currently in the form of his life. Van Persie alone is leading Arsenal back up the table and they are now favourites for a Champions League spot.

Having watched Spurs in two consecutive weekends that would define their season, there seems to be good reason that the FA have not yet approached Redknapp for the England post.

In between going two up at the Emirates and Defoe's late consolation yesterday after ManYoo had switched off, Spurs have shipped eight goals without reply as they have been humbled horribly twice. Redknapp has been tactically inept fielding a previously untried 4-4-2 against two of the best attacking teams in the country. True he was without Bale and Parker yesterday but ManYoo have also had a whole host of injury problems and ManYoo were far from at their best yesterday. Spurs were simply poor.

Redknapp has been blessed at Spurs with the likes of Bale and Modric and in having a canny chairman that has served up the likes of Van Der Vaart and Adebayor on a budget. Tactically all Redknapp has ever done is basically 'go for it' and with no cheque book to fall back on, one would wonder what would happen to England against the top sides, there could be more Bloemfonteins to come.

Spurs will now be looking nervously over their shoulders at Arsenal. Before the start of play at the Emirates, Spurs were ten points clear of their North London rivals with dreams of extending that lead to thirteen. That lead is now only four points. Watch this space.

ManYoo are going to run City all the way in the title challenge and as this blog has mentioned many times before, Ferguson may well remain the trump card. ManYoo were far from their best yesterday yet they still saw off Spurs comfortably and their run in looks entirely straightforward, City are ahead on points but the red side of Manchester is starting to gain some ominous momentum.

City are doing everything that is required of them, simply beating whatever is put in front of them. The squad seems more together than at any point under Mancini and Tevez coming back into the fold might work incredibly well for them, he remains a player of the very highest calibre and will want to put himself in the shop window before the Summer.

If Chelsea were a horse, they would have by now been taken out into the barn and shot, such is the dismal nature of their decline. AVB has been fired - see today's other blog - and Roberto Di Matteo has been given the reigns until the end of the season. It is hard to see Di Matteo doing any worse in terms of results but Chelsea look in serious danger of losing out on Champions League football which would be disastrous given the financial fair play implications.

It is said that a title win for Manchester City would be hollow, ManYoo fans know that this is far from a vintage team and that Ferguson will retire some time soon. Arsenal fans know they are simply papering over the cracks and Chelsea fans are suicidal. The reality for Liverpool is they have no hope currently of winning a title no matter how many times King Kenny repeats 'Liverpool Football Club' at press conferences.

Where is the cheer we ask? Certainly not at Villa Park, Wigan or Blackburn. Only the newly promoted Norwich, Swansea and the rejuvenated North East in the shape of Sunderland and Newcastle seem to have much to smile about, it has indeed been a Premiership silly season - No Nonsense.

AVB put out of his misery

It had to happen and it duly did following an entirely insipid display at the Hawthorns against a West Bromwich team that Chelsea had not previously lost to since 1979.

The players at Chelsea must shoulder a large burden of blame for the sacking of this young, talented but entirely out of his depth manager as the display on Saturday showed they had simply stopped playing for him. In doing so, the players have acted disgracefully.

No matter what they have achieved before, they have short changed the fans and the owner as they attempted to shake off a manager that they did not want. The fans pay to watch Chelsea and the players are paid to represent the club, not to act out their own egotistical tantrums to the cost of everyone else.

For AVB, whilst his pride will surely be hurt it is not the worst result. He will be handsomely rewarded for this short tenure, another high profile job - possibly in Italy - will surely be waiting and the mess that Chelsea find themselves in in terms of the age profile and fitness of their squad could take years to sort out, indeed should there be no continuity in terms of manager hiring, it may not get sorted out at all.

Benitez was apparently approached with regard to a short term post and his would have been an intriguing hire. The attractions for Abramovich were his success in Europe and the potential to revive Fernando Torres. Benitez however seemed to learn little about the domestic side of English football in his time at Liverpool and he was certainly not loved by the Chelsea fans either.

The papers are full of talk of Guardiola and Mourinho. This blog would ask why on earth Pep Guardiola would want to leave the Nou Camp for Stamford Bridge? Guardiola currently has the best players in the world with the best youth infrastructure. Chelsea have an old and overpaid squad with almost no infrastructure in place.

Nearly anywhere would be a step down after Barcelona but this would be several. If Guardiola does leave the Nou Camp this summer, it will probably be for a well earned rest.

Mourinho of course would love the drama and the fans would clamour for his return also. Mourinho is not however what is required. Mourinho simply comes in, spends big, wins (hopefully) and then leaves. Chelsea need planning and that was what AVB was meant to do, but he had to keep them in the Champions League during the process.

The Champions League is precisely Chelsea's biggest problem and Arsenal are now firm favourites to land the last coveted fourth spot. A few years ago, the cost of hiring and firing managers (Chelsea's compensation figures to sacked managers beggars belief) and buying new players was an irrelevance, Roman simply dipped into his ample pockets.

Now however, the Champions League revenue is critical because of the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations. That, coupled with the aforementioned compensation that Chelsea is paying to various managers and they will not even be close to meeting that criteria.

Liverpool have found that it is hard to attract certain players when you do not have Champions League football, Chelsea do not share their rich history and may find it even harder to do so even if they still enjoy the lure of life in the capital.

This blog warned over a year ago that Chelsea were at a tipping point and potentially headed for disaster and was shot down accordingly for it by many short sighted Chelsea fans. The writing has been on the wall for a while and a fifth place finish could potentially put Chelsea in a very tight spot. The Chelsea job is not necessarily any longer one that will the attract the very best candidates - No Nonsense.